1975 – Sandmen Ch02

sandmen-hdr
Sandmen  –  Chapter Two

The first thing that Jake and Danny heard which told them that Nate had returned from the beach, was an extremely loud cry of, ‘You rotten pair of bastards! Where the fuck are they?’

The next thing they heard was the sound of Nate cursing as he hot-footed it over the scalding sand, coming toward the canvas shade where they were still sitting. When they looked up they noticed a naked Nate, standing at the entrance in all his glory, except for the fact his hands were trying to cover his manhood, all the while looking just about ready to kill someone.

Danny looked at his friend and grinned.

‘Okay, you got what you wanted . . . I’m naked . . . so now can I have my fucking shorts back?’ Nate fumed.

Jake reached to one side and picked up the shorts he had found on the bonnet of his van, then seemed to look at them, as if he was weighing up whether or not he was going to give them back.

‘You know, I kind of like seeing you just like you are . . .’ Jake began to say.

‘What the fuck?’ Nate almost screamed. ‘Give them to me.’

Suddenly Danny wasn’t sure what was going on, nor was he feeling particularly comfortable with what Jake was saying and where this conversation seemed to be going.

‘Please, just hear me out,’ Jake said. ‘And you too Danny . . . I don’t want either of you thinking I’m that monster that your parents are so sure I am.’

Nate and Danny looked at each other. They had no idea what Jake was talking about.

‘What the hell are you on about?’ Nate demanded.

‘What I’m on about, is that I would like to paint you . . . both of you,’ Jake said. ‘And like that,’ he added, as he motioned toward Nate with an outstretched hand.

‘W-w-what?’ Danny stammered.

‘You want to paint pictures of us naked?’ Nate asked, obviously while finding it difficult to hide his displeasure at the idea.

‘No. What I specifically want to paint is a picture of two friends . . . naked, yes, and together. And you don’t have to worry . . . it’s not like you would have to sit around naked all day while I painted you . . . and it’s definitely not like you would have to do anything . . . errr . . . sexual . . . what it would be like is what I did with Phillip . . . a few quick photos of the two of you . . . maybe lounging around on the beach, or mucking about, like kids do . . . maybe even wrestling . . . or jumping off a jetty into a river or something . . . all totally innocent . . .’

‘Fuck no!’ Nate said. ‘You’re not going to get your jollies from me like that.’

‘Nate, it’s not about that . . . not at all. What it’s about is depicting mateship . . . a mateship that I can see the two of you have . . . while at the same time capturing the beauty and innocence of youth! It’s art, not pornography!’

Nate and Danny looked at each other.

Danny was beginning to understand what Jake was saying, and he was beginning to like the idea, although he felt sure that Nate wouldn’t see it that way. The painting of Phillip, which Jake had shown them earlier, was simply beautiful. Could Jake do something like that with the two of them as well? Immortalising them in their youth?

‘And I haven’t told you the best bit yet . . . I would pay you both for doing it . . . just like I paid Phillip and the others whom I have painted so far. Like I said, this isn’t about someone getting off on painting naked boys . . . it’s about showing the beauty of youth, and about showing friendship.’

He saw Nate and Danny look at each other once again and sensed that they might just be thinking about it, so he continued.

‘It would be a part of a series I intend to do,’ Jake continued. ‘It’s going to be my grand masterpiece . . . and I promise you that absolutely no one will see the finished painting until the series is totally finished and put on display some place in a gallery in one of the cities . . . so it’s not like anyone will ever even know you posed, and by the time it eventually gets displayed you’ll probably be thirty years old anyhow, so no one will even be likely to recognise you!’

When he finished his spiel Jake tossed Nate his shorts, which were quickly pulled on, before Nate sat down beside his best friend, looking thoughtful.

Jake decided not to push the point. He had made his offer, so he would simply let the boys think about it. That usually worked best, he found.

As for Danny, well, Jake couldn’t be sure what might be going through his mind right now, but he hoped that Danny’s artistic nature would see the offer for what it was; a desire to fill the world with beauty, rather than a lurid attempt to see the two boys naked. He suspected that Danny would see the merit in the idea, but whether he would be able to convince his friend to participate, that would be another matter altogether.

Jake watched as Nate picked up one of the paintings that he and Danny had been working on.

‘Hey, that one looks better already,’ Nate said to his friend, trying his best to ignore Jake for the moment.

‘Yeah. Jake sure knows a lot about this stuff. He’s been really helpful. I think I’ve learnt heaps already.’

For the first time since he had sat down Nate ventured a glance at Jake, while wondering to himself just what the guy was up to. Jake had already told them he was . . . what’s the word they all seem to be using these days . . . gay! He had even shown them a painting of a naked guy that he had done . . . and now he wanted to see the two boys naked as well. But what did that mean? He hadn’t tried to touch them, or do anything remotely weird with them . . . apart from hiding Nate’s shorts; which he gave back anyhow. Was he someone they needed to worry about, or be wary of? Was he one of those guys that their mothers had all warned them about? Or was he just what he said he was, an artist looking to find the inspiration to paint his grand masterpiece?

As the three young men sat beneath Jake’s makeshift tent all of them clearly had things on their minds. With Jake’s arrival in this sleepy town, each of them could now see change coming in their future. This was especially the case with Danny, whose eyes had suddenly been opened to a lifestyle he had only ever seen in his imagination. For the first time in his life he had just been kissed by a guy! He liked it . . . and in particular, he liked the guy who had done it. Would this be the start of something monumental, he wondered? Was Jake the guy who would take him away from this town and show him the world? Or was that just a continuation of the dream he’d been playing in his mind for several years now?

For Nate, he was in two minds as to what might happen. He knew that Jake was a free spirit, a guy who could travel anywhere he liked and do anything he pleased, and he could only ever dream of having a life like that, but just what would Jake’s presence here mean to both him and Danny? And what would happen if they accepted his offer to paint them?

Nate decided he would talk to Danny about it all later, after they left here. He felt sure that Danny would have some idea, or at least an understanding of just what it was that Jake was trying to do. Hopefully he would also have an opinion on whether they could trust him, seeing as Danny had already spent some time alone with the guy.

As Nate pondered these thoughts Danny reached out and picked up his sketch pads, before stuffing them inside his backpack.

‘I guess we better get going,’ Danny said. ‘My old man will be wondering where I am . . . he’ll probably have a heap of things he wants me to do this afternoon.’

‘Well, if you want any help with your artwork, or want to practice anything we worked on today . . . or even just want to talk . . . you know where to find me,’ Jake said. ‘We should have a go at colouring that sketch of the two little kids on the beach, which you showed me the other day. I think it would come up looking really nice.’

‘Th-th-thanks. That’d be good,’ Danny said, while getting to his feet, desperately hoping that Nate didn’t pick up on the electricity that Danny thought he could feel in the air.

Nate stood up also, then Jake smiled and did the same. Then, with a hand resting on Danny’s shoulder, he began to show the boys out.

‘I’m sorry about hiding your shorts like that, Nate,’ Jake said. ‘But I’m glad to see you gave it a try!’

‘Yeah, well, I guess I didn’t have anything to lose . . . and it’s not like I hadn’t done it before,’ he grinned.

‘That’s kind of what I figured when I saw your shorts sitting there.’

The boys picked up their bikes and threw a leg over, getting ready to head off.

‘I guess I’ll see you around then, boys. Just remember you’re welcome out here anytime you feel like coming out.’

‘Thanks,’ Danny replied. ‘I’ll bring some more sketches out.’

‘That’ll be fine. I’m only too pleased to help.’

Danny pushed off and Nate was about to follow, but just then he remembered something.

‘Say, you didn’t tell us how much are you offering?’ he said to Jake.

‘Fifty bucks . . . each.’

In nineteen seventy-five, fifty bucks was a lot of money for a sixteen year old kid.

*     *     *

The ride back along Beachside Lane was a quiet one for the boys. Their morning had been one of new and odd experiences for them, and because of that they were both in a contemplative mood.

‘Did you hear him?’ Nate eventually asked, as they passed an old farmhouse on the left. ‘Fifty bucks, just for letting him take our photo . . .’

‘Yeah, but it’s our naked photo,’ Danny reminded him. ‘Doesn’t that kind of bother you?’

‘Well, I guess . . . yeah . . . especially if someone we knew happened to see it . . . but he promised that wouldn’t happen. So if it’s only you and him who will see it, what will it matter? You and me have seen each other naked before, and now him and me have seen each other naked, so what’s the big deal?’

‘So, what, does that mean you’re actually interested?’ Danny asked, as he slammed on the brakes of his bike and skidded to a stop in the gravel.

Nate skidded to a stop beside him and smiled at his friend. ‘I dunno,’ he said with a grin. ‘But I’ve never had fifty bucks in my hand before. Have you?’

‘No. Never.’

‘So, what do you reckon? Are you game? And do you think we can we trust him?’

‘I . . . I think so,’ replied Danny. ‘What about you?’

‘Well, I guess that provided he doesn’t try any of that funny business on us it should be okay . . . I mean, I don’t care that he’s a queer . . . there seems to be lots of them around, but I just ain’t like that. So if he keeps his hands to himself, and keeps his word, then yeah, I guess I’m game if you are.’

‘And if he doesn’t keep his word?’

‘Well, we both know where the cop shop is, don’t we?’

For a moment or two Danny thought about it. ‘Yeah, what the hell. I’m in,’ he eventually replied, while silently thinking that some funny business probably wouldn’t worry him too much at all. ‘So, it’s all settled then. Will we come back out tomorrow and tell him?’

‘Yeah, that’ll do . . . and I can spend tonight dreaming of how I’m going to spend my fifty bucks!’

Danny grinned at his friend. They money didn’t worry him so much . . . it was what they were going to do, and why they were going to do it that was beginning to get him excited. For a young guy who was just coming to terms with what it means to be attracted to guys, there was just something about it that was both forbidden, yet enticing; something that sent a shiver through his body and left him with a feeling deep down inside him which was kind of exciting, and wanting more.

With the decision now made the boys headed for home, finally bumping fists as they said farewell at Danny’s street, after having arranged to meet the following morning to go back out to visit with Jake.

It was around lunch time and Danny’s mind was still back on Hidden Beach, with Jake’s hands roaming over his body, when he finally wheeled his bike into the shed and propped it against the wall. He was feeling like a different person entirely to the one who had left the house earlier that day; one who had finally seen what his future may hold, and he didn’t hear the approaching footsteps behind him until it was too late.

Spinning around he found his father standing there at the shed door, leering at him.

‘And just where the fuck do you think you’ve been all day?’ his old man demanded. He knew that the pleasantries of last night were nothing but a memory now . . . it was back to the same old routine . . . nice as pie when he arrives home and gets some, then once he gets a few beers into him the dark side emerges.

He had seen it happen way too many times before.

‘I . . . I’ve been with Nate,’ Danny replied, as he tried to back away from his father. He could smell the beer on his breath, and the unpleasant odour of sweat on his body.

‘I just bet you have,’ his father replied, advancing upon his son, before making a grab at his shorts; actually managing to cop a feel of Danny’s manhood, which wasn’t exactly in a state of hibernation given the events of the morning and the thoughts that had recently been on his mind. ‘Yeah, I just bet the two of you have been practicing together?’

‘Jesus, Dad! What the fuck are you doing? Back off!’ Danny yelled at him, as he swiped his father’s arm away, suddenly wondering if his father had had something like this in mind while being so nice last night.

Danny took another step backwards, but soon found himself backed up against the cupboard he had christened the night before. He quickly realised that he was fast running out of places he could go to get away from his father’s clutches. This was a side of him he hadn’t seen before, and Danny dared not think of what might happen should he actually get his grubby hands on him.

For a moment it appeared as if his father was going to have another go at grabbing him, but just like that, in the instant following Danny pushing his father’s arm away he saw something change in his father’s expression. His eyes seemed to glaze over and he just stood there, as his shoulders slumped and his arms dropped to his side while looking blankly at his son.

It was weird, Danny hadn’t ever seen him do anything like that before, but he didn’t care about that. All he was worrying about was getting his arse out of that shed and as far away from his old man as he could.

As his father stood there Danny seized his chance, quickly grabbing his bike, pushing past his father and then straight out the open doorway. For a few yards he ran alongside it, before jumping straight on and jamming his feet down onto the pedals, looking back just once and seeing his father now at the doorway and watching him ride away.

‘Fuck you, and fuck the Kenworth you rode in on!’ Danny spat into the wind, not caring whether his father had actually heard him or not. ‘That sure was some weird shit, pop!’

Pedaling down the driveway as fast as he could, he zoomed out onto the road in front of their house, and just kept going. He had no idea where he was headed, he just knew he needed to get away, and quickly. When he reached the main road which ran through the centre of town a car came around the corner too sharply in front of him, so he had to swerve sharply to the left to miss it. This put him on the road back out of town, but he wasn’t thinking about that, he was still in panic mode, just pedaling as hard and as fast as he could, wanting to put daylight between him and his father’s lecherous hands.

After a little while he slowed, and it was only then that he realized he had just passed the sign at the edge of the town. Up ahead of him he could see the signpost for Beachside Lane, where he and Nate had only just come from.

Finally he smiled to himself. Jake was out there. That’s where he would go.

It was only moments later when he turned off onto the gravel road he had already travelled that day and started pedaling faster. As he got closer a feeling of happiness came over him. A feeling of safety. A feeling of belonging somewhere. Or to someone.

Was that so strange, he wondered?

And how would Jake feel about him when he got there? After all, he was just a kid . . . and what cool nineteen year old with his own car would want a kid hanging around with him all the time?

Fuck! Life was suddenly getting complicated now that hormones were involved.

But still, he pedaled on, despite the doubts that were creeping into his head. He was never going to find out what might happen unless he got there, so he just had to keep going!

One by one he passed the landmarks he remembered. The old farmhouse on the right. The bends in the road. The other farmhouses on the left. The gateway into where the old crazy lady lived. Then pretty soon he came to the turn off into the picnic area where Jake was camping.

As he rode across the car park he could see Jake sitting outside his tent. He was still wearing the same shorts from this morning, and with no shirt on, and it looked like he was working on a painting. When he looked up and noticed Danny approaching after hearing the sound of wheels on the gravel he appeared quite surprised.

‘Danny! Back so soon!’ he said as he stood and faced the boy.

Danny had stopped just short of him, and was standing there with both feet on the ground, straddling his bike and gasping for air.

‘I . . . I . . .’

Instantly Jake knew something was wrong and put down his brushes, quickly going to the boy.

‘What’s happened?’ Jake asked. ‘Where’s Nate? Did something happen to him?’

‘N-no, not him,’ Danny stuttered.

‘C’mon then, mate, how about we get out of the sun, then you can tell me all about it.’

With a nod Danny stepped off his bike and let it fall to the ground, with Jake then leading him toward his shelter. With Jake’s arm around his shoulders Danny felt good. He felt safe. And as odd as it seemed when the thought first struck him, he felt like he was in a place he finally belonged.

When they were beneath the shade of the canvas they both sat down on Jake’s bed-roll. Jake leant over to his cooler and retrieved two cans of Coca-Cola, then passed one to Danny. They both opened their cans and took a sip.

‘Okay, then,’ Jake said. ‘How about you tell me what happened?’

*     *     *

When Danny had finished telling Jake everything that had happened in the last twenty-four hours, from his finding his father at home when he got there himself yesterday, to his being caught in the shed, then to what had happened today when he had arrived home, he could see a frown etched across the forehead of his new friend.

‘I can’t believe it,’ Jake eventually said.

‘But I’m telling the truth,’ Danny quickly blurted out.

‘Oh, mate, I believe you . . . I just can’t believe how any father could do . . . that! What the fuck was he thinking?’

‘I don’t think he was thinking,’ Danny replied. ‘The look on his face when he finally stopped, it was like . . . it was like he was in a trance or something. I’ve never seen him like it before.’

‘But you say that every time he comes home from a trip on the road he’s okay for a while, then goes funny?’

‘Yeah. I’m sure that once him and mum . . . well . . . you know . . . it puts him in a good mood, but then he gets a few beers into him and it’s all downhill from there, until he’s ready to hit the road again.’

‘And has he ever touched you, like he tried to do this morning?’

‘No, not like that. Sure, I’ve had the strap across my bare bum plenty of times . . . what kid doesn’t . . . but he’s never tried anything else, at least not with me.’

‘Hmmm . . .’

‘Do you think he might be . . . you know . . . like us?’

‘I really don’t know, mate. I do know that some truck drivers don’t mind a bit of . . . errr . . . action with other guys . . . after all, it’s a fairly lonely life they lead . . . so I guess it’s possible that your dad might be one that could do that. But like I said, I really don’t know that for sure.’

‘It’s just so . . . I don’t know . . . so fucking crazy!’

‘I know, mate. I know.’

For a while nothing more was said, as they both finished off their drinks, while contemplating the crazy world in which they seemed to be living.

‘I feel like going into town and saying something to the bastard!’ Jake eventually said.

‘No, please don’t!’ pleaded Danny. ‘That would only make things worse!’

‘You’re probably right . . . but still, he shouldn’t be allowed to get away with things like that.’

‘Yeah. I know he’s my dad and all that, and I’m supposed to love him, but I think I need to stand up to him . . . tell him that he can’t do that sort of shit. I’m not going to say anything to mum, but I am going to tell him that if he ever tries it again, or if he ever touches my brother, I’ll go straight to the cops!’

‘Do you think that’ll put the wind up him?’

‘I fucking hope so! I can’t think of anything else I can do.’

‘I know it’s not easy being sixteen and having to deal with stuff like this, but you’re a good kid, Danny, and I’m sure whatever you do will be the right thing.’

‘That’s easy for you to say.’

‘True, but even after only knowing you for a short time, I think I understand you. You remind me a lot of me a few years ago,’ Jake responded, as he reached up and placed a hand on Danny’s shoulder, while massaging him just a little as he did so.

‘Thank you,’ Danny replied, before placing a hand over Jake’s.

It was moments like these that Danny was beginning to appreciate, even after having only known Jake for a short while. He sensed early on that there was something different about him, at least compared to other guys he knew, and it wasn’t just that he was gay. It was more than that, it was something deep down, something within his soul, Danny thought.

Slowly the two boys leaned in to each other. There was nothing tentative about the kiss this time around. They both knew what to do, and what to expect. When their lips met it was a beautiful moment. Unrushed, and without any expectation other than for the two of them to connect with each other, and share the feelings of attraction that seemed to be rapidly developing between them.

Jake gently pushed Danny backwards, laying him back on the mattress as the two of them stretched out, with Danny on his back and Jake propped up on an elbow, leaning over him as the kiss continued, all the while tugging at the bottom of Danny’s t-shirt and running his hand across the boy’s smooth stomach. Jake was moving slowly, not wanting to surprise the inexperienced Danny with something beyond his experience, but occasionally he would venture just beneath the elastic of Danny’s shorts with the tips of his fingers, which would elicit a soft moan from the lips of his young friend each time he did so.

‘That feels so good,’ Danny whispered.

‘Kid, I’ve barely begun,’ Jake chuckled, but instead of continuing he leaned back and looked down at Danny, while letting his hand roam under the boy’s t-shirt.

‘What’s wrong?’ Danny asked. ‘Why did you stop?’

‘Nothing, mate. Nothing at all. I just wanted to look at you. I wanted to remember you like this, all pure and virginal, because if we continue it won’t be very long before you’re not like that any more!’

‘And is that such a bad thing?’ Jake asked, grinning.

‘Not at all . . . but . . . but before we go down that path I just want us both to be sure of what we are doing.’

‘I don’t think I understand! Don’t you like me?’

Jake smiled down at him.

‘Oh, Danny. It’s not that, mate. I certainly do like you . . . I like you a great deal . . . and I can even see us having a future together at some point, if that’s what you want.’

‘But?’

‘But, you’re only sixteen. I’m nineteen. If we were caught having sex now we could both wind up in some serious shit. You’d end up in a boys’ home of some sort . . . but it would be even worse for me . . .’

‘So by that, do you mean jail?’

‘Yeah. I do.’

‘So, what do we do then? I want to spend time with you . . . and I want us to experience it all . . . together, but I don’t want you to get in trouble because of me.’

‘And I would love nothing more than to give you everything you want! There is so much I want to teach you, and to show you, but I guess we’ll just have to take it easy, for a little while a least, and see how things develop between us first.’

Danny looked up at him and smiled. ‘I guess I can’t ask for much more than that then, can I?’

‘No, I don’t think you can,’ Jake replied, before leaning in and kissing Danny once more.

When they were done the two of them fell back against the mattress, gazing up at the canvas ceiling above them, where they stayed for quite a while, with their hands intertwined between their bodies.

Eventually it was Danny who broke the silence.

‘You know, there was something else that was good that happened today,’ he said.

‘Yeah? What was that?’

‘You finally got Nate to loosen up a little,’ Danny chuckled. ‘And all it took was fifty bucks!’

He looked across at Jake and saw him smiling.

‘So, he said yes, huh?’ Jake said. ‘And how about you?’

‘Oh, I think you already knew what my answer was going to be.’

Jake could only smile at him.

*     *     *

It was after dark when Danny finally made it home. He had wanted to stay with Jake, but Jake insisted that he go. It was a hard thing to do, when the desire between the two of them was so obvious, but in the end Danny saw reason, realising that it wouldn’t do either of them any good being caught together, as folks would no doubt jump to the wrong conclusion anyhow.

Cautiously Danny pushed his bike past his father’s truck, then down the driveway at the side of the house. The lights were on inside the house, and when he passed the side window of the kitchen he could see his mother and siblings sitting at the table. There was no sign of his father, and that only served to send another shiver through Danny.

As quietly as he could he crossed the back yard and headed for the shed, where he pushed his bike inside, propping it against the wall where it was usually stored. It was dark inside, but thanks to the light spilling out across the back yard from the light on the back verandah there was just the faintest glow inside the shed.

For a long time he just stood there, wondering what he should do next, his heart beating so loudly that he could hear it thumping in his chest and ringing in his ears. He didn’t hear the sound of anyone approaching and he jumped suddenly when a figure appeared in the shed doorway.

‘Danny!’ the voice said.

‘Stay away from me!’ Danny replied, after quickly re-gathering his thoughts. He glanced around to see if he could find something to defend himself with, should the need arise, but it was too dark to make anything out. He still had one hand on the frame of his bike; maybe he could throw that if he needed to?

‘I . . . I’m sorry . . .’ his father said. ‘I don’t know what came over me!’

‘That’s not good enough!’ Danny said forcefully, suddenly feeling the courage begin to rise inside him. ‘Is that what you do out on the road . . . go after guys like that . . . I’ve heard stories about truck drivers that do that! Do you?’

‘What?’ his father almost squeaked.

‘You heard me! Are you queer, or gay, or whatever it is that they call it these days? I don’t care if you are . . . but if you ever touch me again, or if you ever touch Peter like that, I promise you I’ll be going to see old Sarge Bailey quicker than you can say blow me! Do you understand me?’

‘I . . . I . . . don’t . . .’ his father almost whispered, as he slumped back against the doorway.

‘I’m not going to tell mum, if that’s what you’re worried about, but so long as I live here, you just remember what I said. I mean it! You treat us all right! Do you hear me?’

‘Y-yes,’ his father softly replied.

His father’s response struck Danny as being quite odd. He wasn’t sure where his own inner voice had come from, but he certainly hadn’t expected him to surrender quite so meekly, which only made him think that he was indeed guilty of those things Danny had accused him of being. Danny felt a little bad that he had stooped to that level, especially given his own recent discoveries about himself, but he soon reconciled that there was a difference between somebody just discovering they might be queer and beginning to explore those feelings, and somebody who was queer and trying to force themselves upon someone else . . . especially when the someone else involved was his own son.

Fuck! What had the old man been thinking?

Moments later he saw the shadow move once more, as if he was leaving the doorway, only to then stop and turn back.

‘Your mother has been worried about you all day,’ his father said, but with the voice of a shattered man. ‘She has your dinner ready, so I suggest you go and have it.’

‘Right,’ Danny replied, and then his father was gone.

As he waited a few minutes he thought about what had happened and what had been said. He didn’t want to hate his father, but he had definitely crossed the line. Provided he behaved himself from now on, however, that was all that Danny would worry about. He felt sure that his father would carry on with his job, coming and going as he always had, and maybe he would even get himself some action out on the road while he was doing so, but now that the new ground rules had been laid for life at home, Danny was going to make sure that his father obeyed them to the letter; at least while Danny was still living here. Maybe later their relationship might stand a chance of being repaired, but there would need to be a lot of fence mending done before that could happen, he thought.

After waiting a few minutes, giving himself time to stop shaking and compose himself, Danny finally left the cover of the shed. Nervously he looked around, as if expecting someone to jump from the shadows again, but no monsters came, so he crossed the back yard and headed for the verandah.

No sooner had his feet hit the weathered boards than the back door was flung upon, with his mother appearing in the doorway, looking worried.

‘Where have you been?’ she asked.

‘Hi, mum. I’ve been with Nate.’

‘All day?’

‘No, not all of it . . . I was up at the lighthouse drawing for a while this afternoon.’

‘Have you seen your father?’

‘Yes.’

‘And?’

‘And what?’ he asked, somewhat defensively.

‘Did you two sort out whatever it was that you had been arguing about?’

‘Wh-what did he say?’ suddenly feeling like a rabbit caught in the headlights.

‘He said it was nothing . . .’

‘Well, that’s what it was then . . .’

For a long time she stood there with her arms crossed in front of her, studying him, as if she was trying to see through his lies, but eventually she simply stepped aside and gave him room to enter the kitchen.

‘Go have a wash. I’ll get your dinner from the oven for you.’

‘Thanks, mum.’

*     *     *

In the days that followed Danny saw little of his father, which suited him just fine, and when he came home one afternoon to find the Kenworth no longer parked in the driveway it felt as if a huge weight had been lifted from his shoulders.

It was only fear that had him reacting like that, but still, he didn’t like it. He knew that he just couldn’t wait for his father to hit the road once more, and when he finally did just that, it was a huge relief, as that meant no more treading on eggshells or having to check around corners to see if his father was there, waiting to pounce.

Who he did see quite a bit of in those days, however, was Jake. Sometimes when he was with his friends in town they would hear the familiar, throaty burble of the motor, as Jake cruised in, always taking a park in the same car park where he had first met the boys. The van always seemed to attract attention, but Danny and Nate both noticed that the original scowls of the locals now seemed to have been replaced by smiles and even an occasional, ‘Hello.’

Nobody except Jake understood the high-fives that Danny and Nate would give each other, or the inexplicable bouts of giggles that would arise when one of the more respectable members of the community who had originally looked down their noses at Jake would smile and greet him cordially.

The boys also took every opportunity to ride out to the campsite at Hidden Beach, where they all spent time swimming or talking, or drawing or painting. Whenever Jake and Danny pulled out the sketch books or paints, however, Nate knew that this was their time, and while he sometimes hung around and watched them at work, he usually wandered off on his own; either back down to the beach, or sometimes even heading back into town, where he would meet up with their other friends.

It was during these times without Nate that the two young lovers were able to continue to explore their deepening feelings for each other, while also taking the first tentative steps toward a more physical relationship, all the while knowing that it could get one or both of them in trouble should their liaison be discovered.

The touch of another person’s hand on his most intimate parts for that first time had Danny’s head in a spin, as did his own first touch of the velvety-firmness of another man’s erect penis. The power that the weapon evoked, before firing its load of ammunition, was simply breathtaking, leaving Danny only wanting more.

At around this time the first questions were being asked by Danny’s friends as to just what he might be doing spending so much time with ‘that stranger’, but these were soon silenced when Nate would defend his friend, telling those questioning him that he knew exactly what they were doing, having seen them working side by side, and furthermore, he was amazed at what they were both producing.

That seemed to satisfy the inquisitors for the moment, but even Nate had to admit that sometimes he found himself wondering.

The subject of the offer of fifty dollars came up on the very next visit after it had been suggested, but Jake said he needed to think about just what it was that he wanted to produce, and would let them know when the time was right.

‘Well, does he want to do it, or doesn’t he?’ Nate asked Danny, with more than just a note of exasperation in his voice, as they rode back into town late one afternoon.

‘Of course he does! I mean, what queer guy wouldn’t want to see you naked?’ Danny chided his friend, giving him a playful push as they rode along, side by side, causing Nate to veer away, before managing to straighten back up.

‘Hey . . . it’s you, too, don’t forget!’ Nate responded.

‘True, but I know a little about what it takes to think up a subject and compose an image, and I know it can take a little while to get the picture you want just right in your head, long before you ever pick up a pencil or brush.’

‘You’re full of shit!’

‘Maybe,’ Danny grinned.

‘So, when do you think he’ll do it?’

‘I don’t know . . .’

‘Well, how about we surprise him?’ Nate suggested.

‘What?’

‘He wants us both to do it . . . so how about we both strip off when we go out there next . . . see if we can’t get him in the mood or something!’

‘Nate, are you sure you’re not queer?’ Danny teased.

‘Man, I just want that fifty bucks! And before I get cold feet and change my fucking mind!’

When that next visit eventuated, however, the boys were to be disappointed as there was no sign of Jake or his van. They could still see his shelter amongst the trees, so they rode over to see if he might have left a message or something, seeing as he hadn’t mentioned anything about being away when they had seen him on the previous day.

‘Maybe he just went into town, or something?’ Danny suggested as they crossed the car park.

‘Or he’s found some sexy guy who’s more interesting than us!’ Nate replied, at which Danny snapped his head in his friend’s direction.

‘Why would you say that?’ Danny demanded.

‘I’m just saying! I mean, he’s a poof, ain’t he? So don’t they all go chasing each other for sex or something?’

‘I . . . I don’t think he’d do that . . .’ Danny responded, while desperately hoping that Nate didn’t pick up on the defensive note in his voice.

‘I’m just sayin’, that’s all . . .’

‘Well, just don’t say that,’ Danny spat back, before standing up on his pedals and accelerating away from Nate, leaving him looking more than just a little confused.

When Nate pulled to a stop beside Jake’s shelter a couple of minutes later, still wondering to himself just what had happened, he found Danny emerging from beneath it carrying a piece of paper.

‘He’s gone into Mac. Harbour,’ Danny said to him.

‘So he’s coming back then?’

‘Well, yeah, of course. He’s still got stuff here . . .’

‘Oh, okay. That’s good then.’

‘Yeah . . . it is.’

It was on the tip of Nate’s tongue to ask his friend why he had reacted the way he did just a few minutes ago, but in the end he decided against it. He knew that Danny and Jake were getting close, just because of the work they were doing, so maybe he was just defending his new friend, rather than it being anything to do with what Nate had been talking about.

‘So, what do we do now?’ Nate enquired.

Danny simply shrugged.

‘Feel like a swim, then?’ Nate suggested. ‘I wouldn’t mind cooling off.’

‘Yeah, I guess,’ Danny replied. ‘Not much else to do, unless we go back into town and find the others.’

‘Fuck that. I vote we dive in,’ said Nate. ‘Maybe Jake will be back by the time we’ve finished, then you can do some more of your work with him.’

‘Yeah, maybe.’

‘All right then . . . last one in is a rotten egg!’ Nate laughed, as he dropped his bike where he stood, then started tugging at his t-shirt.

‘Hey!’ Danny called out, but Nate had his t-shirt and sneakers off already and was running for the beach it seemed, even before Danny had had a chance to react.

Undeterred Danny quickly set off after his friend, dropping his t-shirt and his shoes and his shorts as he went, deliberately going the full-monty with the intention of putting Nate off his game, but that idea quickly backfired on him, he found, as he looked up and saw Nate struggling to pull his shorts off as well, before continuing to run toward the surf, laughing.

Together the two naked boys ran into the ocean, each stepping high over the low waves that were coming in to shore, before eventually diving forward into a bigger wave, coming up on the other side of it and striking out for the next one. Danny was behind Nate, but was determined to catch up with him and drag him under, as payback for giving himself an unfair advantage, and so he struck out after his friend, riding over the low swell and the meagre waves with ease.

They hadn’t gone very far from shore when Danny reached his goal, stretching out with a hand and grabbing Nate by one leg, stopping him in his tracks.

Nate turned in the water, startled at first, but then he laughed.

‘You . . . gotta . . . do better . . . than that . . .’ Danny managed to splutter as he tried holding on to the leg of his friend, before suddenly lunging forward and grabbing his shoulder, forcing Nate below the surface of the water.

This sparked a free-for-all, as the two boys started splashing around, dunking each other and playing grab-arse. At one point Danny felt Nate’s hand slide down his body and come into contact with his penis, which was, of course, misbehaving. For the briefest of moments fear gripped Danny’s mind and he pushed away from his friend, laughing in an attempt to make light of it all, but his fear seemed to go unnoticed anyhow and subsided just as quickly as it had arrived.

The boys continued their fun for quite some time. They were comfortable with each other’s nakedness, with neither afraid to grab hold of, or man-handle the other. They were best friends and had been doing just that since they were young kids, although usually clothed, so what difference did it make?

It was while they were in the water that Jake arrived back at the campsite, although with their laughter, the constant sounds of the waves and the distance of the campsite from the beach they didn’t hear the van as it pulled to a stop.

As Jake got out he couldn’t help but notice the two bikes lying close to his campsite. Then he noticed the scattering of clothes leading off in a trail toward the beach. He knew instantly what must be happening and so he quickly reached back into the van for his trusty Nikon 35mm camera, along with his new Polaroid Instamatic camera – which spat out self-developing ‘instant photos’ – which he had only purchased that very morning.

Armed with these tools of his trade he set off for the beach, intending to try and stay under cover for as long as he could so that he might be able to get some spontaneous shots of the two of them.

The Nikon had been a gift from his parents, and he knew that with the zoom lense that was attached to it he would be able to get some good shots, even if he wasn’t too close to the subject. As for the Polaroid, he had no idea how close he would need to be to the subject to get a half decent shot, but he suspected that it wouldn’t suit any kind of long range photography. Maybe he would just have to leave that for when the boys were closer to him . . . but he knew that would ruin any kind of surprise, as the motor on the camera that spat out the photo was as noisy as hell.

As luck would have it, the boys were coming from the water just as he positioned himself in the shade of a small tree on the edge of the sand dune. Quickly he brought the Nikon up and focused it, then took a couple of shots of them as they ran from the ocean, water dripping from them everywhere, their longish hair plastered this way and that and, much to his delight, their chubbed-up cocks swinging in the breeze.

He felt a little dirty doing this without their knowing what was happening, but he knew that it was spontaneity that would give the photos the values that he desired. He also knew that Danny would understand totally, and seeing as they were going to be paid a decent fee for the photos, he didn’t think that Nate would object . . . or not much, anyhow.

He took a few more photos as they ran up the beach, but then he saw Nate run toward Danny and jump onto his back. Something in his brain told him to be ready, that he was about to get just what he wanted, and sure enough, as Danny fumbled to reach around Nate’s thighs and grasp his legs, while still running toward the cut-away through the dune that formed a path to and from the beach, that was when everything fell into place.

That was when Jake got his perfect shot; a photo of the two boys coming up through the path through the dunes, Nate being piggy-backed by Danny, his arms wrapped around his friend’s neck, his legs dangling either side of his friend’s torso, being supported by Danny’s hands, and their smiling faces almost cheek to cheek.

The fact that Danny’s semi-erect penis was bobbing happily from side to side only added to the scene, as far as he could tell.

What made the shot priceless, to Jake at least, was the pure unadulterated joy of both boys, which he could not only see in the faces, but hear in the laughter as they struggled up through the sand.

This was the scene he would capture on canvas. This was quite possibly the scene with which he knew he could build a name for himself in the art world.

Working as quickly as he could, Jake took several photos with the Nikon, zooming in and out to make sure he had a variety of shots, before switching to the new Polaroid Instamatic camera when they came closer to him. At least that way he would have something to show them almost immediately and from which he could begin his preliminary sketches, until he could get home to develop the 35mm film.

He pointed and clicked, then the camera started whirring, quickly spitting out a blank photo. One of the tips the girl in the camera store had suggested was that it was best to slip the automatically developing photo into something that was a little bit dark while the chemicals did their job, so he quickly slid the photo beneath his shirt, tucking it face down against his skin, and safely behind the elastic of his shorts.

Then Jake quickly pointed the camera and took another photo, only this time the boys heard the noisy mechanism of the camera motor and stopped, looking up to where Jake stood in the shade of a tree and spotting him there. Nate slid from his friend’s back, which kind of disappointed Danny as he had been enjoying the feeling of his friend’s semi-erect penis rubbing against the small of his back.

‘Hey . . . what was that?’ he heard Nate ask.

They were now standing side by side, with Nate still having one arm draped over Danny’s shoulder.

Quickly Jake snapped off another shot of the two of them.

‘I bought a new camera . . . come up and I’ll show it to you,’ Jake called to them, as he fanned the two latest photographs in front of him, which was another one of the tips the girl in the photo shop had shown him.

*     *     *

At first Nate had been a little reluctant to let Jake see too much of him as they all walked toward the camp, making sure that Danny was between him and Jake at all times.

Danny could sense his friend’s unease and tried putting an arm around Nate’s shoulders. He himself had long since become accustomed to being naked around Jake, so he no longer had any issues with nudity. His only concern now was whether he might get an erection while in such close proximity to these two beauties . . . but he soon figured that even if he did, it wouldn’t be the issue it would have been even just a few weeks ago.

As they walked along Jake filled them in on his trip to town, which was to grab a few supplies and check in with his parents by phone. The new camera had only been an afterthought, after noticing it in the window of the shop next door to the chemist he had visited, figuring it could be quite useful, particularly with getting colour versions of photos he had taken with his Nikon; in which he usually only used black and white film and often developed the photos himself when he was at home.

The boys also picked up their clothes as they walked, but when Danny didn’t pull his back on, instead just slinging them over his shoulder, Nate decided to do the same; after all, hadn’t Jake already seen it all now anyhow?

‘Guys, I want you to know that I think the photos I took today are going to give me just what I want,’ Jake said as they reached the campsite. He had shown them the Polaroid’s down beneath the shade of the tree from where he had taken them, watching their eyes light up as the developing process was completed, with the colours gradually coming to life in a process that could only be described as magical.

Now, as they reached Jake’s shelter Nate glanced at Danny to see if he was going to get dressed, but when he made no move to do so he figured he should just go with the flow. Jake must have seen the look of confusion on his face, though, not to mention Nate’s glance at Jake’s shorts, so before they settled down beneath his canvas shelter Jake slipped off his shorts, so that he was in the same state of undress as both of the boys – hoping that it would help put Nate a little more at ease.

For a moment he saw Nate’s eyes bug out, but when Nate saw that Danny’s only reaction was a smile he relaxed slightly, even if he was still somewhat confused. Nate would try and talk to Danny about it later, he figured.

Spreading the three Polaroid photos out on the mattress between them all, Jake began to explain to the boys how he intended to use them. They may not have had the clarity required to be able to create an artwork from, he explained, but he was well pleased with the colours and the composition all the same, and using these as a basis he would do his preliminary sketches, then add the finer detail later on, once he had been able to develop his Nikon versions of the photos.

Selecting one of the photos Jake picked it up and showed it to the boys.

‘This is the one I want to paint,’ he said to them. ‘See how you are coming up the path between the grasses growing on the dunes, and with the ocean and sky behind you both. It’s going to look simply fantastic when it’s done . . . I’m sure of it! Well worth your modelling fee!’

‘But what about my . . . errr . . .’ Danny began to say, noticing the chubby look of his penis.

‘What about it? How would you like it painted? Fully hard, or shriveled up, or anywhere in between?’ Jake asked, grinning, which soon had Nate laughing hysterically.

‘Shut up!’ Danny scolded Nate, while giving him a shove sideways. ‘At least yours is covered over . . . or do you want me to tell Jake how far up it reached when it was rubbing against my back? Hey, maybe he could paint the tip of it peeping out over my shoulder between us?’

‘Ewww . . . that’s gross!’ Nate replied.

‘C’mon, guys, let’s keep it sensible, eh?’ Jake suggested. ‘I know how tempting it is to joke about all this kind of stuff, but you’ll find that when you start hanging out amongst people who do this for a living it doesn’t take long to figure out how serious they can be. All the kid stuff has to quickly be thrown out the window and you call the body parts just as you see them. One of my old friends actually did a photo shoot for a porn magazine and he told me that on the first day the photographer very quickly told him to grow the fuck up and act his age, or fuck off home.’

‘You know porn stars?’ Nate suddenly asked.

‘Only one . . . but that’s not something I’m interested in at all. Give me art and beauty over smut, any day . . . the smooth, firm lines of a young body . . . either male or female, it doesn’t really matter . . . although some people think that any naked body is nothing but smut anyhow, regardless of the beauty, or the artistic effort; which is just plain wrong, as far as I’m concerned.’

The two boys nodded in agreement, even if they weren’t totally sure why.

‘So, have you painted any naked women?’ Danny enquired.

‘A few . . . but I think you probably already know which I prefer,’ he answered with a grin.

Danny felt his face flush at this and hoped like hell that Nate didn’t notice.

‘So, what about the other photos?’ Nate asked. ‘How long before you get them back? Will we get to have a look at them too?’

‘Of course! I’ll even give you both a copy of them if you want! They’ll only be black and white, so I’ll develop them myself when I go home next week for Christmas, then after that I can get some more work done on the sketches for the painting.’

‘That’d be great, thanks. And did you remember about the markets this weekend?’ Danny asked. ‘Are you still going to set up a stand there and sell some of your paintings? We’ll help you if you like.’

‘Yes, I did, and thanks, I’ll be glad of the help . . . that’s if you don’t mind being seen in town with that weird stranger that’s been hanging around town?’

‘Oh, I think we’ll be safe enough. Just remember to be ready to tell them all how great a town it is and that you’re really making progress with your magazine story!’ Danny chortled.

‘I’ll do just that!’ Jake chuckled.

‘Yeah, and remember to take your camera with you . . . all the old fuddy-duddies would love having their photo taken for your magazine article!’ added Nate.

‘Geez . . . you pair are just terrible, you know that?’

‘What? We’re just trying to help a mate out!’ Nate pleaded, raising his hands in mock surrender.

‘Is that what they call it these days?’ Jake teased him, as he reached for his shorts.

Danny and Nate glanced at each other, wondering what he was up to now.

‘So, if you’ve been helping out a mate, does that mean you won’t be needing this then?’ Jake asked, before pulling out a small bundle of crisp new notes.

Immediately the boys eyes lit up, although for Danny he suddenly felt guilty about the whole deal, given that he had not only been learning so much from Jake, but had also really just wanted to participate in the creation of Jake’s masterpiece, payment or no payment.

‘I got it out of the bank in ten dollar notes,’ Jake proceeded to tell them, as he counted off five of the notes. ‘At least that way no one would be as suspicious as they would be if you suddenly started waving a fifty around.’

He handed Nate his fifty, which was accepted with a look of total awe on the boy’s face, before holding out the same amount for Danny, who at first appeared reluctant to take it.

‘Go on,’ Jake urged. ‘I promised it to you both, and seeing as I’m more than happy with what I got for it, I’m more than happy to pay it. And as I also promised you, no one will know anything about it until all the paintings I do in this series have been completed, and only then will the paintings be displayed.’

Danny eventually reached for the money and closed his hand around the cool notes.

Fifty bucks! He was rich . . . well, almost . . . but even without it he knew he would still feel the same . . . like he was just happy that he had helped out a friend and for the first time in his life he was being a part of something truly worthwhile. He couldn’t wait to help with the actual painting when Jake was ready to start work on it.

‘So . . . you want to take any more naked pictures of us?’ Nate cheekily asked, as he counted his notes for about the hundredth time.

‘I think I’ve got enough to work with for now,’ Jake answered, while giving Danny a wink. ‘But I could send one of the pics to my gay porn star mate if you want? He might be able to use a new model?’

‘What? Fuck no! I only do arty-farty modelling, not none of that porn crap . . .’ Nate squealed, which only caused the other two to start chuckling.

*     *     *

One of the good things about Hidden Beach, especially in nineteen seventy-five, was that for the most part very few people went there.

With Thompsonville being a small town, and with the main beach being just across the road from the shopping centre, there was little need for the townsfolk to travel to any other beaches in the area, unless they specifically wanted somewhere quiet for activities they didn’t want anyone else interfering with.

As a result, Jake had seen very few people during the daylight hours while he had been camped there, and even at night there had only been a handful of visitors; about half of which had left when they found another vehicle parked there amongst the trees, while the other half stayed as far away from Jake’s side of the grounds as they could; which all suited Jake just fine.

Of course there was always going to be someone wanting to test the boundaries and want to check out the guy camping at Hidden Beach, he figured, and later that afternoon, long after the boys had left, fully clothed and now flushed with cash, Jake noticed a red Valiant pull in on the far side of the car park. It had black stripes up the side and the rear door windows were tinted, he noted.

He had been working on sketching an outline of Danny onto a canvas, in preparation for painting it, and was in a good mood as it seemed to be coming together beautifully. For some reason his hand felt more alive than it ever had before as the raw beauty of the boy, which had earlier been snapped as the three of them had lounged around Jake’s campsite, began to emerge from the white blankness. It wouldn’t be until he began to paint the image that he would know if the finished work would match his initial vision, but so far he was quite pleased.

Afterwards, once the sketch had been completed and an initial wash applied for the backgrounds and the sections where depth of colour was required, Jake sorted through some of his paintings, selecting some that he thought he might try and sell at the markets over the weekend. It was just as he had finished packing everything away and locking his artworks, supplies and equipment back into the various compartments in his van, when he had heard the vehicle and looked up.

While he hadn’t so far had any really bad experiences while being out on his own, Jake was always wary about being caught alone and in circumstances where he might find himself in trouble. He had been told first hand stories of what sometimes happened when a lone gay guys found themselves caught up in situations they couldn’t get out of, which was mostly when other groups of people became involved. He had also been given some survival tips from some of those same people, and for all of those reasons he was particularly careful when he found himself in similar situations, always preferring to err on the side of caution.

When he finished what he was doing and had closed and locked the back doors of the van, Jake looked across at the car once more. He could see that there were two people in the front of it, but with its tinted rear windows it was impossible to tell if there were more. They were just sitting there, and looked as if they were drinking and smoking . . . which he knew, depending on what they had their hands on, could sometimes be a deadly combination.

Glancing around his campsite he checked to see if there was anything else of value that he needed to lock away, but found nothing he needed to worry about. There was only his bedroll, his cooler, which was only plastic, his wash basin, his folding card table and the folding chair he used. Those things could always be easily replaced; he was quietly grateful that everything else had been locked away, and he was glad that this was a habit he had gotten into at the end of every day.

All that was left to worry about now, assuming that his visitors did in fact have hostile motives, was hiding the keys to his van, lest they might think there could be something in there that could be of value to them.

Moving around to the driver’s side of his van, which was the side that couldn’t be seen from the other car, Jake leaned in and switched off the ignition, quickly silencing the sound of the radio, which he had been listening to. It was a shame, he thought, as he had been enjoying the current song by that new Sweedish pop band that everyone seemed to be raving about: ABBA. He knew he was going to miss the Bay City Rollers, who he had been fixated on in recent years and who had seemed to disappear from the radio all together just lately, but this new group was going to keep him pretty happy for a while, he thought.

It was then that he wondered what kind of music Danny listened too, which brought a smile to his face. Being normal Aussie kids he figured Danny and Nate were probably Sherbert fans. As soon as he shut and locked the driver’s side door, he then knelt down near the back tyre, safely out of sight of the people in the other car, where he quickly scratched at the loose sand and grass behind the rear tyre, and as close as he could to the tyre, even digging beneath it a little, creating a hole that was just big enough to hide the keys in. He tossed them in and then covered them back over, being careful to try and make it look as undisturbed as possible by also placing some dry grass back over the top of the hole.

If nothing happened, then he would be able to retrieve them easily enough, but in the event of him being jumped, at least they shouldn’t be able to get access to any of his stuff.

With that accomplished, Jake looked around him, trying to decide what to do next. He had no idea if this was all a case of him simply being too paranoid, but his instincts were telling him that he needed to be careful, and so he had no qualms about taking a few precautions.

Looking over at the red Valiant once more there still didn’t appear to be any sign of activity there, but to be on the safe side Jake decided to take a walk, heading for the beach, so that the strangers would know he had left his camp site. Later, when it was approaching dark, he figured he would double back to his campsite by walking down the beach and then back through the scrub, which would allow him to keep an eye on things as he approached.

For the moment, though, he was happy just to get away from the camp site, where he could push aside any thoughts of being bushwhacked and concentrate instead on the many other things he wanted to be thinking about at this time, such as the talented young man who seemed to have captured his heart in recent days, and the direction where said heart was about to lead him.

Coming out onto an empty beach, late in the afternoon, Jake looked around him. There was not another living soul in sight. On top of the headland to the south of the beach he could see the lighthouse, standing tall and shining bright in the afternoon sun, while the mile long beach between where he now stood and where the headland began to rise was glowing in the afternoon light, even as the first hint of shadow began to creep across it from the west.

Setting off along the beach he found that he was quite quickly able to put his worries behind him, which let him think instead about where he was in his life and what it was that he wanted to do in the immediate future. And as crazy as it may have initially sounded, the more he thought about it, the more he wanted Danny to be a part of that future

From that very first day when he had met Danny and his friends he knew that this kid was different to the others he was with. There was just something about him which stood him apart from the others, yet at first it wasn’t something that Jake could readily put his finger on. The more he thought about it, however, the more things started to make sense. It was when they looked into each other’s eyes, he realised, that he saw the special something that he had recognised. It had been like looking into a mirror, and it was almost as if they shared the same soul, the same spirit, the same life force.

Jake knew then that he was falling for Danny. He also reasoned that they were meant to be together. The question was, what could he do to make that happen? And furthermore, what would Danny’s reaction be if he tried telling him that? Would it freak him out? Or would he understand, perhaps having picked up on those feelings himself already?

Jake barely understood the way the universe worked himself, but he felt that this was the work of some greater force, bringing the two of them together, so he resolved then and there that he would talk to Danny about it. He would explain his feelings for Danny and he would ask him to come with him. After that, their futures would be in the lap of the gods.

*     *     *

It was growing dark by the time that Jake returned to his campsite, using a path back through the scrub which he had discovered during his wanderings in recent days. He hadn’t forgotten about the visitors on the far side of the car park and had approached his camp with some caution, spotting the dark hulking outline of the other car well beyond his own and wondering just what they, whomever they were, were up to.

There was no sign of any movement around his camp and so carefully he crept forward through the scrub. It was only as he drew closer that he had the first indication that there might be trouble, when he heard the sound of voices coming from straight ahead, which was right where his campsite was.

‘Fuck, it’s all locked up,’ he heard a guy say.

‘Where could the bloody poof have gone?’ another voice added.

Instantly Jake froze.

Moments later he saw two guys come from around the far side of his van. He felt sure that if they had looked up they would have seen him.

‘Heesh bound to be here shumplace,’ one of them said, before ducking beneath Jake’s canvas. The slurred words were a dead giveaway that they had been drinking, which Jake knew made them even more dangerous than they otherwise might have been.

Carefully, Jake took a step backwards, but he obviously wasn’t careful enough, as a twig snapped beneath his foot.

Once more he froze. But it was too late. He looked up and looked straight into the eyes of one of the strangers.

‘Hey, Thommo! He’s here,’ the guy said. Even in this pale light Jake could see the evil grin that appeared across his face.

To be continued . . .

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